House panel steps up to provide protection to BPO workers

Published July 7, 2020, 6:27 PM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza 

The House Committee on Labor and Employment directed on Tuesday, July 7, its Labor Standards Subpanel to consolidate the five measures seeking to provide protection to the workers in the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry.

During a virtual meeting, the House panel  approved the motion made by Baguio lone District Rep.  Mark Go, calling on the subcommittee, chaired by TUCP partylist Rep. Raymond Democrito Mendoza to consider all the concerns of all stakeholders on the bills, and come up with a consolidated measure.

At the start of the meeting,  DIWA partylist Rep. Michael Edgar Aglipay, who presided over the meeting, said that the bills will be referred to the Mendoza subpanel for consolidation. 

He noted that the bills had been pending since the 13th Congress and it is about time for the House to act on the measures that would protect the rights and promote the welfare of the 1.3 million BPO employees. 

“As to revenues in 2017, the BPO (industry) has contributed at least US$23 billion to our country’s economy…Our country has consistently ranked among the top five outsourcing destinations in the world.  Hence, it is therefore imperative that Congress through this Committee must deliberate on the matters concerning the welfare of our BPO workers,” Aglipay, one of the principal authors of the bill, said.

In her sponsorship speech,  Quezon City 2nd district Rep. Precious Hipolito-Castelo urged her colleagues to pass the proposed Magna Carta for BPO employees. 

“It is apt to enact a regulation that will ensure the protection of the interests and welfare of BPO employees.  This measure intends to guarantee safe and humane working conditions for them,” she said. 

During the meeting,  Labor and Employment Committee Chairman and 1-PACMAN partylist Rep. Enrico Pineda also asked the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE)  to look into the concerns of some BPO workers that their firms are on “business as usual mode” even after finding out that some of its employees tested positive for COVID-19. 

“We request the good Secretary (of Labor) to look into the matter. Pag nagkaroon ng cases of COVID (If there are COVID cases)  within the workplace,  they should immediately stop and assess the situation first, what has to be done.  Saka dapat naiinspect din natin (There must be inspection)  kung talagang (if really)  they are doing proper distancing, so forth and so on,” Pineda said. 

“As much as we want everybody to be working again and earning a living, pero kung ganyan na magkakaron ng infected (but, if there will be employees who will be infected), baka lalong magkaroon ng problema ang kumpanya dahil dadami ang lalong maiinfect na employees nila (the company will be having more problems because more employees will get infected). I think the concern of the workers should be addressed to the Good Secretary immediately so he can discuss it with the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force),” he said. 

DOLE- Bureau of Working Conditions (BWC) Director Tess Cucueco said the monitoring has started in the many industries including the BPO. 

“We already have reports and we can share this with you as we are collating the results of inspection monitoring in industries including the BPOs. The Secretary is also making sure that all of these guidelines especially the minimum public health standards are complied with,” she told the panel. 

When asked to comment on allegations of some BPO workers, Rey Untal, president and chief-executive-officer of the Information Technology and Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP), said,  “Hindi po kami (we are not in) business as usual (mode). We are taking extraordinary measures to ensure that we are able to balance both the welfare [of the employees] as well as the ability to provide continuing business and employment.) 

“I can assure you there is no advantage on the part of employees to disregard the welfare of employees because ultimately the business will suffer. The strict adherence to minimum health standards and safety protocols as prescribed by DOH and other executive agencies are being strictly followed,” he explained.